COLUMBIA — The Missouri football team is well aware of the challenge that Nebraska’s quarterback Taylor Martinez presents.
Just seven games into his Cornhuskers career, the freshman has marked his place in the record books. As a dual-threat quarterback, he captured Nebraska’s single game quarterback rushing record with 241 yards on the ground against Kansas State.
“He’s averaging about 124 yards a game rushing,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s really a remarkable player. I’m very impressed. As a freshman, just his ability to see things, his ability to run and break tackles. He’s a very headsy player, especially for a freshman.”
Martinez is averaging 8.7 yards per carry and has six touchdown runs of 40 yards or more.
“We’ve played some pretty athletic guys at quarterback, but Martinez, he’s a little bit more special,” senior defensive back Carl Gettis said. “He’s got a lot of speed. A really athletic quarterback. He poses a challenge.”
It’s a challenge that junior defensive tackle Terrell Resonno said makes him feel a lot of pressure.
“It’s going to be hard,” Resonno said. “It’s going to depend if the guys up front get deep penetration in the back field and create losses. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on us this week.”
The initial knock on Martinez was that he couldn’t make plays with his arm nearly as well as he could with his feet, but last week he quieted doubters with an NU freshman record of 323 passing yards and five touchdowns against Oklahoma State.
“He’s a big part of their offense,” Gettis said. “Probably going the main focus we want to shut down. He’s got the ability to break off that big play with the pass or the run.”
The one weakness the Tigers will look to exploit is Martinez’ lack of experience.
“I think our coaches are going to do a great job to try and confuse him a little bit and try to exploit that he’s a freshman,” junior defensive end Aldon Smith said.
Smith also said that Missouri could learn from last year’s Texas Bowl when Navy’s quarterback Ricky Dobbs rushed for 177 yards and threw for 130 in its victory over the Tigers.
“I think we can definitely learn something from last year,” Smith said. “Running against Ricky Dobbs, he did a good job. Hopefully we won’t let that same thing happen with Taylor Martinez this weekend.”
The question is how will the Tigers prepare for Martinez. Pinkel refused to discuss which one of his players would play the role of the Cornhusker’s quarterback in practice throughout the week.
“We’ll decide that tomorrow,” Pinkel repeated several times during his press conference on Monday.
Smith also said he didn’t know who would receive the reps as the Martinez impersonator, but he had a proposal.
“I can go back there and try it a little.”